What a way to start a season.
The Hornets fought back from 24 points down, ending with a 58-32 run that closed out the biggest comeback in Charlotte basketball history.
- The Hornets ended up with balanced scoring numbers across their starting lineup. Only Lance Stephenson ended with single digits, and Kemba Walker finished with 26 points.
- The Hornets dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Bucks 50-35. Charlotte had 16 second-chance points, compared to only 2 by Milwaukee.
- The Bucks shot well throughout the game, ending at a 48.8% clip from the field. Meanwhile, the Hornets couldn't hit a thing, only shooting 40.6%, including 28.6% from the 3-point line.
- The Bucks' second unit really gave them a boost in the first half, especially from guard OJ Mayo, who had 13 points in his first 12 minutes. That Bucks second unit was a +14 at halftime, but a negative in the second half.
- Gerald Henderson only played nine minutes tonight.
How It Happened
The Hornets got open looks all game, but had difficulty hitting them throughout the night. The Bucks, on the other hand, really capitalized on their open ones. The Hornets really struggled on defense early, especially in transition. There were two straight possessions at one point that Brandon Knight ended up with a wide-open 3-pointer.
The Hornets really turned around their fortune on the defensive end, where they ended with 8 steals and 9 blocks. Lance Stephenson made a living in Indiana creating havoc on the perimeter with his former wingmate Paul George, and it seems like he might have found a new partner in Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. It wasn't all pretty on that end, but those two showed they can clamp down on the perimeter when needed.
While Stephenson struggled with his shot, only hitting 3 out of his 12 attempts (25%) for 7 points, he did show the type of shot creation that Charlotte desperately needs this year after losing Josh McRoberts during the summer. Stephenson ended up with an assist ratio (number of assists averaged per 100 possessions) of 35%, second only to Brian Roberts. Stephenson had a beautiful drive and dish in the second half that ended with a Cody Zeller slam.
Which led the Hornets to be in a position where they could have a shot to tie the game. Down three, with the shot clock running down, Kemba Walker pulled this nonsense.
In overtime, head coach Steve Clifford kept rotating subs for offense and defense (MKG on defense, Gary Neal and Marvin Williams on offense), which we should expect to see all season long.
The Hornets had a lot of first-game mistakes. Part of it was jitters, but mostly it was the players learning to play real games with each other. At one point, Jason Maxiell got an offensive rebound and had three open Hornets players around him on the 3-point line. Instead of hitting the Hornets' best shooter in Gary Neal, he passed it to Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. That may seem like a trivial thing, and the possession might have even still ended with a made bucket, but these things matter later in the season. Chemistry matters. Players have to learn each other.
There is one thing the Hornets won't have to learn this season: who is taking the big shot. Kemba Walker has had a knack for hitting big shots his entire career going back to his college days at Connecticut. In a perfect ending to the Hornets being back in Charlotte, Kemba came up BIG.